It isn't easy bringing a new hybrid to market against the might and experience of Toyota--but Ford is certainly managing.
The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid is setting record hybrid sales numbers for the company, and even beating down Toyota's share of the hybrid segment.
The striking styling of the Fusion Hybrid, with its Aston Martin-like front facia, is apparently resulting in other benefits for Ford--Fusion Hybrid buyers are proving to be five years younger than buyers of the previous Fusion Hybrid, and six years younger than buyer's of Toyota's equivalent, the Camry Hybrid.
Ford's research has shown that 22 percent of Fusion Hybrid customers are under 35--compared to 13 percent for the Camry.
Most of the Fusion's sales are in San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as Washington D.C. Those west-coast sales in particular are important for Ford, in a market normally dominated by imported marques.
“We’re bringing new hybrid buyers into the market, many of whom wouldn’t be considered traditional hybrid buyers,” said Amy Marentic, Ford's marketing manager for Global Small and Medium Cars.
Marentic notes that Ford's hybrids are scoring with those with a green ethic, but additionally, "the car also puts some excitement into the segment through design; it shows hybrids can have beautiful and sophisticated styling. This, in turn, means different buyers.”
Most buyers are actually new to the brand, meaning all-important conquest sales from its rival, Toyota.
That's borne out in the numbers--Ford Hybrid sales were up 9 percent in December, for a market share of 16 percent.
That's still small beans compared to Toyota's 60 percent share, but those numbers don't tell the whole story--Toyota's share of the hybrid market actually fell 8 percent in the same period. In the fourth quarter, Ford sold a total of 19,554 hybrids--up 193 percent on its previous best sales record.
Sales have also increased in the Central, Southeast and Great Lakes regions, where traditionally, hybrids haven't had strong sales.
A positive result in recent Consumer Reports tests will no doubt boost the Fusion Hybrid's reputation further--though Ford still needs to overcome claims its hybrids don't quite stack up to EPA test results.